Unions battle over fire, police merger attempts

Many cash-strapped cities and towns across the nation are proposing to merge fire service and law enforcement

WASHINGTON — Firefighters across the country are battling attempts to merge fire and police departments in cash-strapped towns.

Law enforcement officials have been less inclined to resist the proposals, since they'll likely only be performing firefighting duties a small part of the time and the mergers appear inevitable, according to Huffington Post.

Firefighters, on the other hand, are voicing concerns that their jobs will drastically change, putting them on patrol and fulfilling other police duties.

"If I wanted to be a police officer, I would have gone to the police academy," Harper Woods, Mich., Firefighter David Micallef told Huffington Post.

Firefighter Micallef's suburb of 14,000 is set to vote on a merger proposal next month, when residents will have to decide if they would accept a cheaper, more generalized public safety service.

The Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union is fighting hard against similar merger proposals across the state to create "public safety departments."

"I have no interest in being a cop. There are a lot of firefighters who can't do a cop's job, and a lot of cops who can't do a firefighter's," Union President Mark Docherty said.

The proposals are not a new phenomenon, as other municipalities around the state have already been using the generalized public safety model successfully for years.

Kalamazoo combined police and fire services in the 1980s, and has become a sort of national model.

"I have quickly become a fan and a believer in the model," Kalamazoo Chief Jeff Hadley, a career cop, says.

"Is it perfect? No. But we're able to get a greater use of our resources, and provide a better public safety service on the whole, than if we had traditional police and fire departments."

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